Four goals from Josh Kennedy – including three majors in the all-important final term – gave West Coast a nine-point win over Geelong, in a game where the Eagles overcame long intervals of scoreboard dominance by the Cats and ultimately came back from 22 points down to take the four points on Saturday evening at Optus Stadium in Perth.
The Eagles, in winning their fifth game in a row, employed a never-say-die approach as their stars stepped up to beat the Cats 11.7 (73) to 10.4 (64) to propel themselves into the top four as Geelong dropped to sixth spot.
The game, from the Geelong perspective of having their last match in the Western Australian hub, opened up as a complete opposite from Monday night’s hard slog against Fremantle. Whereas that was a four-quarter blood-and-guts battle, this match was a wide-open display of high-scoring, attacking footy from the first bounce.
And a mere 16 seconds from that opening bounce, the Eagles were immediately in front. Kennedy used his superior body positioning against Harry Taylor to gather in Tim Kelly’s great supply to put the Eagles in front.
Kennedy’s goal was the first in an entertaining opening term which saw seven goals without a miss between the two teams.
Yet from this early juncture, it appeared that Nic Naitanui was going to use his edge in vast experience to win ruck battles against Esava Ratugolea, but the younger Cat showed his skill in improvisation – even tapping hit-outs to himself and running forward, Naitanui-like, to give Geelong timely advantages in the clearances – as Geelong kicked the next two goals via Zach Tuohy and Sam Menegola.
After Dom Sheed leveled matters twelve minutes in, Mitch Duncan and Jack Darling swapped goals from set shots within a matter of minutes, but Patrick Dangerfield kicked the go-ahead goal three minutes before the first break.
Dangerfield’s major justified the Cats’ edges in overall disposals and possession, to give them a deserved lead.
Yet for all the two-way prowess of attacking footy as was seen in the opening term, the second quarter would prove to be the opposite, with Geelong hitting form.
Scoreboard pressure would be Geelong coach Chris Scott’s buzzwords of instructions, and goals from Brandan Parfitt, Gryan Miers and Tom Hawkins would go against the trend of second quarters being the Cats’ weakness.
Geelong enjoyed a four-goals-on-the-trot run – and more importantly, keeping West Coast off the scoreboard to the tune of what they did to Fremantle on Monday night.
And by the time Sheed kicked his second goal from a scrambling effort to cut the Cats’ lead to 16 points with three minutes to go before the main break, Geelong had succeeded to tighten the screws defensively while attacking the scoreboard with perfection – amazingly, the first time since 1915 that they had kicked multiple goals to halftime without as much as a single behind.
Geelong maintained their momentum – and perfect form in front of the big sticks – as the third term began, as Tuohy kicked his second to extend the lead to 21 points.
But the Eagles refused to go away meekly – a set-shot goal from Liam Ryan and another one on the run from Jamie Cripps allowed the Eagles to stem the tide and cut the arrears to eight points with six minutes to go before three-quarter time, and after Gary Rohan gave Geelong its first miss at goal, Ryan also squandered a pair of clear opportunities in front of goal to get West Coast to within a straight kick.
While Geelong thought they would have the final say of the quarter, after Hawkins kicked his second goal of the night to punctuate a flowing move forward by his teammates to restore a double-digit lead, Brendon Ah Chee converted a set-shot goal from point-blank range after the siren to return the Eagles’ deficit to eight points – and thereby set up the prospect of a pulsating final term.
And it didn’t disappoint, as Kennedy, Kelly and Naitanui all lifted for the Eagles as the final term got underway.
That final term started much like the opening one did, with Kennedy converting from Kelly’s perfect service seconds after the restart. As if that didn’t already set the tone, the former back-to-back Coleman Medalist converted again to get the Eagles to within two points again after Sam Simpson replied – amid some contention from video review – to Kennedy’s first goal of the term.
Then West Coast – many experts’ favorites for the Premiership before the season started – hit another gear. Jack Darling gave them the lead with a set shot following Naitanui’s approach work in the contest and on the run, yet Geelong’s defensive resistance remained strong albeit their need to take marks inside 50 still went begging.
However, Kennedy put the result beyond doubt with 90 seconds to play, taking a strong contested pack mark and then kicking straight to give the Eagles their final margin of nine points.